Articles

  1. Fluid Balance: The Importance of Proper Hydration

    Sometimes the simplest things are the ones easiest to overlook. When you’ve got a supplement plan, training schedule, and a diet to try to stick to, remembering to make sure you’re taking on enough water can easily slip through the mental cracks. Even experienced athletes can be unaware of just how important proper hydration is, not just to your workouts, but to your overall health.

    Water is by far the most abundant chemical substance in the body, making up some 95% of the brain and 75% of muscle tissue. It also serves a number of important functions that keep you healthy. It acts as a messenger, a building material, and as a solvent delivering nutrients. It helps regulate body temperature, maintain cell pressure and keeps the concentrations of various body fluids in check. It’s unsurprising then that even mild dehydration can have such a big effect on the way our bodies work.

    Performance

    One of the most obvious effects of dehydration is muscle cramps. You need water to make your muscles contract and relax and you need water to transport nutrients to the muscle tissue and carry away the waste. If the concentrations of electrolytes in your body aren’t kept within healthy ranges then nerve function will be impaired, and as nerves control the muscles, performance and control can be set back even further. If you’re trying to pack on some muscle, making sure you’re maintaining a proper fluid balance is essential.

    What’s less immediately obvious however is just how badly dehydration can impair your performance across the board. Studies have shown that a 2% liquid loss correlates to about a 10% loss in power right across the board. If you’re an elite athlete whose success is dependent on fine margins and who trains to extract every last drop of performance, a drop of 10% can instantly cancel out gains you’ve made over years of hard training. Even for recreational athletes this loss of power can damage the progress you’ve made and keep you from achieving your personal goals. All those after work weight sessions and weekend runs won’t have been for nothing, but you won’t be seeing the gains you expected.

    Other symptoms to look out for

    The effects of dehydration range from mild to severe. Feeling light headed or dizzy, cramping muscles, or a noticeably dry mouth are early warning signs that you’re not taking on enough fluids. You might stop sweating altogether even during intense exercise while your body tries to retain as much water as it can, putting you at risk of heatstroke. Symptoms of heatstroke include faster breathing, a faster heartbeat, extreme mental fatigue (possibly including disorientation and delusions), loss of consciousness and seizures. If you or someone you’re training with starts exhibiting any of these symptoms then call for immediate emergency medical attention, as untreated heatstroke can be fatal.

    Principles of proper hydration

    • Keep taking in fluids throughout the day rather than waiting until you feel thirsty
    • 300 - 500ml of fluids 20 - 30 minutes before the training session to make sure you’re optimally prepared for your workout
    • Avoid excessively cold drinks, 10-15°C is ideal
    • Another 300 - 500ml sports drink will help replace the water and electrolytes lost through training.
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  2. What's In Your Drink? An Athlete's Guide to Hydration

    Unfortunately, sometimes proper hydration is not as simple as just taking an extra bottle of tap water with you next time you head to the gym. The best type of drink in each scenario is determined by your fluid absorption rates. The higher the carbohydrate content of your drink, the slower it can travel through the stomach and be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine. A really sugary drink then might not be the best choice in the middle of training as it will take too long to work it’s way through your body to maintain proper hydration and if you’re exercising for long periods of time normal bottled or tap water won’t provide your body with a replacement electrolytes for those lost through sweat. Isotonic drinks strike a nice balance between pure water and sugary sports drinks, allowing for relatively fast hydration while supplying your body with lots of electrolytes and other nutrients.

    Depending on the type of exercise you’re doing, it’s best to stick to water, isotonic drinks, or heavily diluted sports drinks before and during training. Once you’re done for the day though, a sports drink high in sugars, carbs, electrolytes, and even a little protein can be just what you need to get yourself rehydrated.

    In order to make sure you’re choosing the right drink for the right situation it’s important to know what the label is telling you about the contents of your drink. Beverages marketed towards athletes generally fall under three different types, each of which are absorbed by the body in different ways.

    • Hypotonic drinks have a concentration of sodium and sugars lower than the concentration of fluids in the body. They’re low in carbohydrates, but good at helping you replenish lost fluids quickly.
    • Hypertonic drinks have a higher concentration than the body. They’re absorbed more slowly and when taken during exercise, unless properly diluted, can actually lead to you losing even more water than you were before. This is why hypertonic sports drinks are usually consumed after a workout to help your body replenish lost carbohydrates, glycogen, and electrolytes.
    • Isotonic drinks contain a concentration roughly similar to that of bodily fluids. Isotonic drinks are very easily absorbed and are great for rehydrating the body during exercise while providing a small boost of carbohydrates and electrolytes.

    When your workout can lead to a very high loss of liquid, for example in the case of running a marathon, drinking only water can cause hyponatremia, a potentially fatal condition that leaves the body with abnormally low levels of sodium. In these situations it is extremely important to make sure the fluids you take on contain sodium.

    Keeping yourself properly hydrated will ensure that you’re seeing the benefits of all of the work you’ve been doing in the gym. More than that though it might also leave you feeling less stressed, less fatigued, and just healthier overall!

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  3. A Healthy Body = A Healthy Mind

    A Healthy Body = A Healthy Mind

    As well as the physical benefits of exercise and regular activity, a fit and healthy lifestyle has also been clinically proven to be one of the most effective ways of improving your mental health. With mental health spanning from stress and anxiety through to intense depression and with an estimated one fifth of UK adults suffering from some kind of mental health issue each year, the question is how can exercise really help?

    Exercise A Secret Remedy?


    For many who have encountered mental health issues, the thought of getting out and exercising may be daunting, however it has been proven that regular exercise can relieve stress, improve memory, help you sleep better and boost your overall mood.

    Building Exercise Into Your Routine?


    If like so many of us you have a busy lifestyle and are not currently a fitness enthusiast, but want to reap the benefits of fitness, you will firstly be pleased to know that research also indicates that modest amounts of exercise can also make a difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to make you feel better. As your confidence and fitness levels increase, there are so many ways to get the best out of your fitness routine.

    Start Early


    For the best results, try to schedule your workout at the time of day when your energy is this highest. Although a battle for many, the time in the morning before work or a school run can provide you with a great opportunity to get out in the air and get you ready for the day ahead. For added benefits, try to make your early morning session a fasted cardio session (before breakfast), this can help you to become more efficient at using existing fat stores in your body, whilst also ensuring your hormones are in the perfect alignment for fatty acid mobilisation.

    Running


    If you are looking for an exercise that is easy to work around your busy schedule, love it or hate it, running is a fantastic cardio exercise, giving you the freedom to get outside and build stamina and endurance. What’s great about running is that it can also be something you do on your own, giving you the breathing space you need, or something that is extremely social. It’s rare that you head out for a morning run and don’t meet other runners, or if you get really confident in your stride there are hundreds of running clubs up and down the country many of which are easy to access and often free to join.

    Weight Training


    As well as cardio training, moderate intensity resistance training has also been linked with improved mental health, with studies showing that resistance training can also provide some real benefits to aspects of cognition in older adults. Try to build some moderate intensity resistance exercises into your cardio a few days a week.

    Set A Personal Goal


    One of the most difficult factors when it comes to improving your fitness, is staying on track and staying focused. All too often, no matter how great the benefits, there is a tendency to fall back to old habits and not to push yourself or progress. A sure fire way of making sure you stick to your programme is to set yourself a challenge or a goal. This could be anything from a 10km run to a half marathon, from a new personal best in the gym to a weightlifting competition, through to one of the hundreds of challenge events taking place each year. Having a date in the diary and that knowledge that you have to achieve something will help you stay on track and achieve your goal.

    Diet and Fitness The Perfect Partnership


    Diet and fitness are usually seen to go hand in hand and when it comes to looking after your mental wellbeing, the combination of a great diet and a quality fitness routine are essential. Nutrition plays a bigger role in mental health than many of us realise, with evidence suggesting that what we eat can contribute to the development, management and prevention of some mental health problems. So what do we need in our diets to ensure we stay as healthy as possible?

    The consumption of lots of fruit and vegetables have been proven to have a positive impact, but along with this we need to ensure our diets provide adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Many of which lack from what we eat on a day to day basis.

    Although certainly not a cure for mental health problems, there is clear evidence pointing towards exercise and diet as a good way to influence symptoms which many of us encounter every day. Whether it’s stress, anxiety or one of the whole host of others, finding ways to incorporate fitness into our day to day routine can help reduce symptoms and provide a new focus or goal. Even small amounts of change in levels of physical activity, or diet can have a positive impact.

    Keep your eyes peeled for our range of simple home workouts and for information about supplement products that may be suited to your training programme or diet.

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